Friday, December 14, 2007

Police: Burglars Searched Obituaries For Victims

This story really hits home because I actually know this person's (the would-be victim's) grandson. My brother was at Mr. Endel's funeral when his granddaughter got the call from the Benbrook Police Department.

From NBC5I:
"A pair of burglars planned their crime by checking the obituaries and breaking into houses while the victims were at the funerals, Benbrook police say."

Watch the video here:

These people were searching the obituaries, finding out the name of the person who died, getting on the Internet and looking up their addresses, then they would break in their house during the time of the funeral, when, of course, no one would be home because all of the family and friends were at the funeral.

Supposedly, an undercover Benbrook police officer was sitting on the Endel's back porch drinking a Coke when these losers tried to break in.

For some reason, I think the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's public access website might have been where these people were finding out all their info. That's just my opinion.

But no matter how you look at it, these people are the bottom of the barrel.

Here's the story from the Star-Telegram:

Thieves target empty homes of mourners

Pair are arrested in funeral burglaries

Star-Telegram staff writers

BENBROOK -- Ledonna Scruggs was mourning with other relatives beside her grandfather's grave last week when her cellphone vibrated.

On the line was a Benbrook police detective, informing Scruggs that an officer had caught a man peeking into her grandmother's home.

The man told the officer that he was at the house to pick up a woman -- he gave the name of one of Scruggs' relatives -- and to take her to the airport.

But Scruggs told the detective that no one in her family knew the man.

Benbrook police weren't surprised. They had noticed a pattern of such burglaries, and in fact, had contacted Scruggs earlier to ask permission to keep an eye on the family's homes.

They arrested the man, David Neil Jackson, 37, accusing him of attempted burglary of a habitation. Investigators think Jackson intended to break into the widow's home, using information he had gleaned from a newspaper obituary and the Internet.

Lt. Mike Ford, a Benbrook police spokesman, said Benbrook police have identified four homes that were targeted by burglars while homeowners were involved with funerals.

"We believe they were reading the obituaries in the paper and then going by the house when the unsuspecting family members were burying their loved ones," Ford said.

"There's so many resources now on different Web sites that they can get into" to find addresses of people listed in obituaries, Ford said.

For months, Benbrook police have also been reading the obit page, conducting surveillance both inside and outside homes that were empty while families were at visitations or funerals. Sometimes, as with Scruggs, they called a family member and arranged to watch empty homes.

Jackson was arrested Dec. 6 after he caught the attention of patrol Sgt. D. Gray, who spotted a man pulling up in front of Scruggs' grandmother's home and watched as he walked to the front porch.

"He peered through the window and kind of looked over his shoulder a couple of times," Ford said.

Jackson was walking around the side of the house when Gray confronted him and, soon thereafter, arrested him.

After interviewing Jackson, police said, they searched the Fort Worth residence of Racquel Leah Gauger, 30. They recovered property, including jewelry, that had been reported stolen in Benbrook and other places around Tarrant County, Ford said.

Jackson remained in the Tarrant County Jail on Thursday night facing three burglary-related charges. His bail totals $30,000. Gauger also was in the jail with bail totaling $66,500. Gauger, who is also known as Racquel Scudder, faces two burglary charges in Benbrook and theft-of-property charges in Hurst.

Richard Winstanley, Hurst's assistant police chief, said some of the items found at Gauger's residence were stolen from a house in August while a family was at a funeral.

Investigators from other Tarrant County cities, and Hood, Johnson and Parker counties, also want to see if the pair might be connected to burglaries in their jurisdictions, officials said.

In a Fort Worth case on Dec. 3, a family attending a relative's funeral returned to their home in the 4200 block of Ridgehaven Road and saw a woman waiting outside in a car, police Lt. Stephanie Sullivan said. The woman apparently alerted a man, who ran from the back of the house and got in the car, which drove away, Sullivan said.

The frame of the house's back door was loose, indicating the man was trying to get in.

However, the woman's vehicle was different from the one the Benbrook suspect had, she said.

Sullivan said she wasn't aware of a recent increase in Fort Worth burglaries during funerals.

"But this isn't a new trick," she said. "People have being doing this kind of thing for a while."

Ford recommended that people ask someone to house-sit when they are attending funeral-related events. At least, they should alert police that the house will be empty.

Scruggs' 83-year-old grandmother said she was "in disbelief that people like that live in this world -- to try to steal from someone who has just lost somebody they love. It makes me sick."

The grandmother said she and her husband had lived in their Benbrook home for 48 years. "It would have been devastating to lose my husband's and my things," she said. "It devastates me that someone would even try."

In Jackson's pocket, Scruggs said, police found a piece of paper with her own address written on it.

"He later told the detectives that he planned on doing my house next," she said.

No comments: